10.19.2002 (Saturday), 10:29 PM

One Black Eye But Now I'm Smokin' Clean

Ain't I pretty...I'm so pretty...ain't no one pretty like me...

(Day #8 from my October 12-20th trip to Tokyo with my friend Les ...)

Saturday morning and I didn't feel too bad after the previous night's strenuous activity but one look in the mirror indicated that I should have considered ice after my little eye vs. knee mishap. In short, I looked like a prizefighter replete with a fat shiner below my right eye. Fortunately, it didn't look too bad and I thought it would stay that way. Still, I donned my pair of Matrix sunglasses for the day's events.

Today was our last shopping day in Japan. Soma-san came to the hotel to pick up some things that we needed shipped home, 'nuff said. We headed out in search of electronics and noisy CDs.

If you don't know by now, lots of people smoke in Japan. Quite frankly, it's a smoker's paradise. This can be especially bothersome if you live in America's most smoke-free state: California. Ordinarily, cigarette smoke bothers me but like I said before, I become a very tolerant person when I'm in Japan. Besides, it's almost a nostalgic scent to me when I'm in Japan.

A few years ago, Japan Tobacco along with JR (Japan Railways) set up smoking areas in train stations for smokers to use so that the stations wouldn't become big nicotine contact-high hookahs. At the time, they dubbed part of the campaign "Smokin' Clean" which referred more to the effort to get smokers to put their butts (smokable, that is) and other cig paraphernalia into specially labeled trash containers. I thought that this was hilarious (as lots of English language things tend to be in Japan) because the idea of smoking is dirty to me. I don't think anything less of people who smoke, I just think that the smell and effects that tobacco can have on the human body is dirty. So "Smokin' Clean" seemed like as big an oxymoron as "military intelligence" or "jumbo shrimp". I always wanted to grab one of those cig butt trash cans and take it home as a real souvenir of Japan...

Since it was our last night in Japan, I thought that I'd take Les to a pretty famous (I guess) sushi place in Tsukiji called Edo-Gin (say "eh-doh geen"). The last time I ate here was in 1992 and it was brilliant. The restaurant has four different restaurant spaces all within a Tokyo block (a "banchi") and all of them are laid out the same so no matter which on you walk in to, you always know where to sit. (Heh, I just made that up...) They apparently employ over 100 sushi chefs for their four shops in Tsukiji.

Edo-Gin is pretty famous for low prices (it's in Tsukiji where nearly *all* of Japan's fish comes into the Tsukiji Fish Market) and huge-ass slices of extremely fresh fish (ditto again, with the Tsukiji Fish Market being a mere two blocks away). It was great to see that very little has changed about the place. If you sit at the counter, you are served your large, delectable morsels right on top of the glass fish case. They serve lots of fish so the top of the case is really wide therefore there's plenty of room to pile it on. And man, do they pile it on.

Take your average piece of sushi: there's a piece of rice about the size of a size "C" battery covered by a piece of fish about the length of a size "D" battery but as thick as a single CD case. Your typical Edo-Gin piece of sushi has the size "C" rice but about double the size of fish. You could eat it in one bite but there is really lots to cram into your mouth so why not enjoy two bites instead. And if you order tamago (egg) be prepared to eat about a quarter of a two-egg omelet-sized piece of the most juicy and sweet egg you've ever tasted. The truth be known here and now, Les and I are glutton legends (in our own minds) but even this was too much for Les as he described it as the "omelet that broke me". We waddled out into the rainy Tokyo night, fat, happy and ready for some quality sleep time.

Posted by wjc